Kobe Bryant, Courtney Lee, Kyle Lowry

Winderman: Meet the new Kobe, same as the old Kobe


At the conclusion of Tuesday’s play, only one NBA player was averaging more than 19 shots per game.

That player, in fact, was averaging 22.3, essentially putting him in a league of his own.

Which, of course, is where Kobe Bryant long has considered himself.

The question now is whether 22.3 is too many, whether it fractures the team concept, whether Mike Brown once again is handing over the keys to an offense, just as he did, without ultimate success, to LeBron James with the Cavaliers.

This, of course, is nothing new with Kobe, who finished second, barely, to Monta Ellis in shots per game last season, 20.1 to 20.0, as the only two players in the league to average more than 20 attempts. And two seasons ago, Kobe finished third in the NBA, behind Ellis and Carmelo Anthony.

The point being that triangle or no triangle, Kobe is going to get his shots and get a lot of them.

When Kobe went 6 of 28 in Sunday’s loss to the Nuggets, Brown said he did not have an issue with Bryant’s shot selection. There was no snarky Jackson-esque aide to indicate otherwise.

As the ultimate complementary player, Pau Gasol continues to be along for the ride.

But for Andrew Bynum, the question is whether so much offense going in one direction isn’t undermining his development as arguably the best center in the West.

The irony, of course, is had David Stern had not blocked Chris Paul-to-Lakers, Kobe would not have the ball in his hands as much, would not be able to decide on his own what is and is not a good shot.

But beyond that, the greater issue is when the Lakers are going to begin transition to something beyond all-Kobe all-the-time.

One would have thought that transition would have begun with the move from Jackson to Brown. But with the roster relatively stagnant, save for the loss of Lamar Odom, it appears it will be same as it ever was.
A lot of Kobe. Scraps for everyone else. With Brown’s endorsement.

To a degree, there simply might not be a need for the Lakers to evolve. After a rough start, after getting Bynum back from his season-opening suspension, after a new tape job on Kobe’s wrist, they seem fine.

Kobe certainly is fine. He’s getting his shots. More than he has in years.

But is that in the Lakers’ best interest? Bynum’s best interest? The best interest of a team caught in the middle of a grueling schedule with a lot of games and little time for rest?

At 33, Kobe is making himself more essential to the Lakers than at perhaps any other point in his career.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at @IraHeatBeat.

Jahlil Okafor tweets apology for recent off-court behavior

Jahlil Okafor
1 Comment

The off-court incidents have been piling up for Jahlil Okafor over the past month: first, an incident captured on video that showed Okafor getting into a fight with a heckler early Thanksgiving morning; then, a report that Okafor had a gun pulled on him in a previous incident; and finally, this morning’s report that the Sixers’ No. 3 overall pick in this June’s draft had been pulled over in recent weeks for driving 108 miles per hour in Philadelphia. Together, they aren’t a good look for the rookie.

On Sunday afternoon, Okafor apologized for his recent behavior in a series of tweets:

The recent incidents involving Okafor are surprising—going into the draft, he never had any red flags for maturity or off-the-court issues. He’s certainly saying the right things after the fact, and he’s only 19, so hopefully this is nothing more than a small rough patch where he’s made some bad decisions, and not an indicator of things to come.

Kobe Bryant announces this is his final season


It has seemed like this was it for a while. Kobe Bryant has been frustrated; he hasn’t been able to produce like he expects — his play has been hard to watch — and the Lakers are a train wreck.

Kobe made it official Sunday via the Players’ Tribune — this is his final season. He did it via a letter called “Dear Basketball.”

You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream
And I’ll always love you for it.
But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer.
This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.

And that’s OK.
I’m ready to let you go.
I want you to know now
So we both can savor every moment we have left together.
The good and the bad.
We have given each other
All that we have.

It’s not coincidental this was announced a couple days before the Lakers travel to Kobe’s hometown of Philadelphia to face the Sixers. Also remember Kobe is an investor in The Players’ Tribune.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver quickly released this statement:

“With 17 NBA All-Star selections, an NBA MVP, five NBA championships with the Lakers, two Olympic gold medals and a relentless work ethic, Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players in the history of our game.  Whether competing in the Finals or hoisting jump shots after midnight in an empty gym, Kobe has an unconditional love for the game.

“I join Kobe’s millions of fans around the world in congratulating him on an outstanding NBA career and thank him for so many thrilling memories.”

Kobe will go down as one of the game’s all-time greats. Few can come close to his resume: Five NBA titles, two NBA Finals MVPs, 15 time All-NBA teams, one MVP, 17 times an All-Star (and the All-Star Game MVP four times). And we could go on and on.

Good on Kobe for doing this now. After 55,000 NBA minutes his body has quit on him, and where his mind is still willing the flesh is clearly weak right now. He has not been able to adapt his game to the changing realities of what he can do.

Kobe has said he doesn’t want a “Derek Jeter Farewell Tour” but that will be the feel from here on out. Expect some special recognition at the All-Star Game in Toronto.

Bulls’ Dunleavy to see specialist after suffering setback with back injury

Mike Dunleavy, Joakim Noah
Leave a comment

CHICAGO—Over the past few weeks, Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy has seemed to be making progress in his back rehab. Dunleavy underwent back surgery shortly before the start of training camp and was initially given a timeline of 8-10 weeks. Recently, he’s been increasing his workload, and he traveled with the team on their recent west coast road trip.

However, his recovery may have hit a snag.

“Mike is going to see a doctor again tomorrow and then we should have a better update after that,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said after practice on Sunday. “He had a little bit of soreness. But we’ll have more on that tomorrow.”

An update to Dunleavy’s status is coming, but given Dunleavy’s age (35) and the frequency of back injuries to reoccur, this news certainly isn’t encouraging. Between Tony Snell and Doug McDermott, the Bulls have struggled at both ends of the floor on the wing. Getting Dunleavy back, whenever that happens, will be a huge help. But nobody knows when that will be.

Stan Van Gundy calls out Andre Drummond’s effort after loss to Thunder

Andre Drummond
Leave a comment

After a promising start to the season, the Pistons have lost three of their last four games and seven of their last 10. And although he’s been outstanding for most of the season, Andre Drummond has not been above receiving criticism from Stan Van Gundy. The coach called out Drummond’s effort on Friday night after a loss to the Thunder.

Via Sportando:

“I didn’t think he brought much energy to the Milwaukee game, and I didn’t think he brought much energy tonight,” Van Gundy said of the two beatings the Pistons received this week. “Why that is, I don’t know. But we need a lot more from him than we got tonight.”

Calling out your best player in the media is bold, but Van Gundy has enough of a track record and a reputation, going back to his days in Orlando with Dwight Howard, that he can get away with it. It also sends a message to the entire team that Van Gundy isn’t going to hold his star to a different standard than the rest of the team.

Despite a couple of poor performances, Drummond is having a career year, leading the league in rebounding at 17.1 per game while also averaging 17.9 points.